After John Rolfe had served his time island hopping in the Pacific for Uncle Sam, he’s mustered out in San Francisco and doesn’t see much point in returning home to the family’s decaying mansion. However, it’s tough trying to find work in the Bay Area when all you’ve to offer are injuries and martial skills. Down in the newly renovated cellar lay the results of his experimenting with a war surplus shortwave radio, but qualifications in maths and engineering from VMI hadn’t made Rolfe a communications tech and there’s a God Awful CRRACCK when he powers it up!

When he raised his head, he saw that the radio was still there, but the opposite wall is now a silvery shimmering wall. Showing the same sort of bravery that had helped him take out that Nipponese bunker, Rolfe pushed through to see what was on the other side of that shimmering barrier.


Tom Christiansen is part of the Game and Fisheries Department’s Special Operations Unit, taking the battle for the environment to the criminals most directly. Along with his colleague Roy Tully, he's on a bust in Los Angeles but it proves to be the other kind of bust when their target goes up in a massive explosion. Helping to pull survivors out of the wreckage, Tom is horrified to notice the massive piles of furs and tusks, all from CITES listed creatures!

Then he noticed the bird. A whopping great big Californian Condor! Half of one percent of the whole worldwide population.

He’s just a leettle bit upset!

Along with Tully, Christiansen vows to track down the smugglers, but his best clue – that Condor – turns out to be a rather curious bird, for it is not related to any of the living birds, which should be impossible.

As their investigations continue, they find their attention turning to the mysterious Rolfe companies that had bought up such a large part of the San Francisco waterfront and appeared to be so wealthy. Christiansen’s attention is diverted for a time by a beautiful young woman but there were strange hints about his lover that eventually caused him to look at her closer, only to find something that he had not expected, and something he had not wanted to find. Adrienne was involved in some way with the smugglers and had no real life in his over regimented timeline.

Threatening Adrienne and her cohorts with their knowledge led Tom and Roy to a one-way trip across that still shimmering barrier that separated Farside from First Side.

Adrienne takes the duo on a trip round the highlights of the civilisation that was being built away from the oversight of much current bureaucracy. But it was clear that there was a snake in this nascent Eden and the couple get the chance to complete the destruction of the smuggling conspiracy whilst finding out why so much money was required by those conspirators!

In the ensuing violence, the gateway back to First Side is destroyed and the New Virginians are left marooned!

Like all of SM Stirling’s work, a great deal of effort has gone into making his worlds real. Far Side might read like a nineteen forties or fifties that are a little more perfect than they really were but it has its own internal consistency and charm. First Side is a bit more dystopian than I feel it will be. An intriguing note is Tom’s background as a soldier and his musings on Gulf War 2, which was just about to be fought as I read the book.

Something that is missing for 'aficionados' of Stirling's earlier works is the complete lack of kinky sex :-) (this is not to say that there is no sex, though!).

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